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May 11, 2009 / Bo Mackison

The Devil’s Urn

AKA Black Tulip Fungi

AKA Black Tulip Fungi

The Devil’s Urn is a fungi often found in spring on sticks or small logs. It is most common east of the Rockies, but is also found in the Midwest. I found this cluster while checking out the Noe Woods in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum for ephemeral wildflowers. The reference I consulted noted that these fungi begin to fruit a bit earlier than morel mushrooms and continue through much of the morel season.

I love morel mushrooms (think dipped in egg and cracker crumbs and fried until golden brown) but since moving to Wisconsin, I have never found them in their natural setting. In western Illinois, I frequently went mushroom hunting with my grandfather as a kid, and it was not unusual to come home with 10 to 20 pounds of morels after a day out in the woods. I have found them at the Farmers’ Market in Madison, and they are sold at a premium price. I saw them last year for $30 a pound, and I will not admit to indulging at that price, though many people gladly pay that sum. The morels are usually sold out an hour or so after the market opens.

As far as eating the Devil’s Urn, I wouldn’t recommend it. There is little in the literature to suggest that this fungi is poisonous, but when eating mushrooms the rule is “Eat nothing you cannot absolutely identify as non-poisonous.” And with a name like Devil’s Urn, it sure doesn’t sound too promising.


  1. Anna Surface / May 12 2009 7:52 am

    I don’t recall seeing this type of mushroom but perhaps I wasn’t paying attention while out and about in the woods. What an interesting mushroom and name to go with!

    • Bo / May 12 2009 8:01 am

      Anna, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. And I am out and about in the woods a lot. I thought the name was rather amusing. Seems the Devil gets credit for a lot of nature’s more interesting specimens!

  2. montucky / May 12 2009 9:11 am

    I had never seen those before either, although I’ve seen several that faintly resembled them. Never the deep cups though.

  3. Sande / May 12 2009 9:41 am

    On my wish list of things to do would be a biblical garden – I think that fungi would be an interesting addition. Nice photo! On morels: I found one in my yard this year, too old to eat. And also on Mother’s Day my sons and their families tromped the woods my mother owns and found 3. So we cooked them and anyone who wanted to taste them got a bite or two. I love them.

  4. oneshotbeyond / May 12 2009 11:11 am

    reminds me of a wasp nest…the way the little openings are.

  5. Robin / May 12 2009 4:03 pm

    Very cool shot, Bo. They do look a lot like black tulips.

    I enjoy morels too, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve had one. We used to camp in Wisconsin (north and a little west of the Dells) and one year they had a guide at the campground who took us all tromping through the woods to find edible plants and fungi. We came back with a bag full of morels (and other stuff, but I don’t remember what the other stuff was) and the guy fried them up with butter and garlic. That was my first taste of morels. I’ve never been able to find them here in Ohio.

  6. Gandalf / May 13 2009 4:27 pm

    Devil’s Urn – curious name and a great shot.

  7. amuirin / May 19 2009 12:07 pm

    *laughs* No, not too promising.

    I love reading your blog. Do you know what you are, Bo? You’re a naturalist, and a damn good one.

    It’s kinda cool to actually know one of those- the whole world can claim Thoreau, but I have a naturalist right on my buddy list. 😉

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